On our most recent holiday drive J and I started talking about goals for 2014. I’m always thinking about the future in one way or another, so the combination of making goals + another January rolling around isn’t all that novel or inspiring. And yet, it is a little. If only because the arrival of the new year makes for some informative road trip conversations.
Most of my goals for next year are pretty self-evident to anybody who has read many of my posts. I need to bring this thesis thing to a conclusion… one way or another.
Presumably in May I will become a parent. My goals in that department involve 1) survival (both my own and that of my husband, dog, and future child); 2) getting into outdoorsy things again, as much as the child-rearing process allows; and 3) finding a way to return to my field of work in some capacity (full-time, part-time, or even on a freelance or volunteer basis) by the end of the year.
I’ll continue to support J in his transgender journey. That’s not a goal really; it’s a given. But it seems worth noting.
Finally, I need to get out more. Do more things around town. Make some connections here in our new home. At this point I can’t really even consider us “new” to Boise, since we’ve technically lived here since March of 2013. But our life so far in this place has been intermittent, broken by a summer month spent traveling, and a month in the fall spent on a work crew in another state. The time I have spent here has been largely lacking in social interactions. I’m fine with that on the whole, and can be very happy for a long time on my own, or with the company of one or two really close people. But in the long-term, I need to start thinking about getting out more. Participate more in the Meetup activity groups in town, meet some other new / expecting parents like myself.
I think something more needs to be said on this last subject, if only to clarify a very typical “shy / introverted person” resolution.
I’ve written before about my history of social anxiety. It was a difficult chapter in my life, and a long one. Repairing my self-confidence and generally learning how to put aside my fear in social situations has been a lot of hard work. More than that, it has involved listening to myself and learning how to productively push my boundaries.
Back in high school when I was still painfully shy, I thought that forcing myself to participate in a lot of social activities would help me improve. Certainly that’s what everybody advises shy people to do. Back then I saw social anxiety as a door blocking me from the rest of the world, and I thought that if I bashed myself into that door hard enough and frequently enough, I would break through.
What actually happened was that I made myself depressed by expecting too much from my performance in social situations. Then, when I wasn’t in social situations, I never really allowed myself to enjoy my solitude. I didn’t realize the importance of having a time and place to recover in between efforts. I was always telling myself to “Gogogogo!” which was exhausting. And when I was exhausted, I couldn’t perform.
It took years, but life got better. Life continues to get better.
I realized that being tired and stressed out makes me do and say stupid things, so I took up some hobbies just for me. I became a backpacker and I learned, incrementally, how to relax. I allowed myself to enjoy solitude.
I continued (and continue) to put myself into social situations, but my expectations have changed. Instead of looking for a certain level of performance or certain outcomes, I mostly just stick around for a while and try to enjoy myself. Most of the time these days, I do. When I don’t, or when an outing or visit just generally doesn’t go well, I don’t get as upset about it. Instead I feel thankful to be living in a larger city where it’s easy to find a range of social activities to participate in, a place where “meeting people” is not only synonymous with “attending church” or “going to a bar.”
Moving into 2014, I know that I have work to do. I need to get out more, to keep pushing my comfort boundaries. When I think about social anxiety now, I can still see that door some days. But instead of thinking I have to bash it down, I take a deep breath… and look for the doorknob.